05 SES 04 A, School-Community Relations and Partnerships
Parallel Paper Session
In recent years, attention has turned to the premise that, in order for children to thrive and achieve, they need a nurturing and positive home environment as well as support at school. Intervention has a part to play in assisting families to address any problems they have and enable children to concentrate on learning. Family support work in England has traditionally been the domain of Local Authority Children’s Services and voluntary sector providers. Following the requirement that schools should provide an enhanced menu of services for children, families and communities, and the introduction of the Parenting Support Advisor pilot, many schools chose to employ family support workers to assist in ensuring children were ready to learn. Findings from the PSA pilot (Lindsay et al 2009) indicated that the provision of parenting support could be successful in improving pupil attendance, and increasing parental engagement with learning (which in itself is thought to lead to improved educational attainment for children see e.g. Shuang Ji and Koblinsky, 2009; Patrikakou and Weissberg, 2000; Hanafin and Lynch, 2002).
FSWs were seen as pivotal by schools in disadvantaged areas as part of a new transformative provision that was intended to break down barriers and increase engagement in both education and society (for pupils, families and the community) and reduce social and educational inequalities. Schools articulated a theory of change that for transformatory work to become a reality and to influence outcomes (and this may be changing the culture of the community; improving life chances etc), it was necessary to attend to the basics first – ensuring children are safe, secure, well fed and dressed – and ready to learn. This involved engaging parents and encouraging good family functioning or to overcome problems at home that were manifesting as barriers to learning for the students. FSWs had the capacity to establish good relationships with families on the one hand, which could help ensure that families who needed support were identified and engaged, and they had a good knowledge of local services that they could refer to quickly and easily if the need arose. In some areas, FSWs were felt to be plugging the gap between specialist and universal services, providing early intervention and preventing cases from escalating, which supports previous work undertaken around FSW outside school (Gray 2008). Teachers we spoke to stated their appreciation at having FSWs in school, as it gave them an avenue to seek support when they had concerns that did not warrant specialist referral.
This paper will examine the role of FSWs in schools, and analyse the contribution they can make in assisting schools to reconceptualise their relationship with their communities and ensure positive outcomes for children. Research questions include:
What kind of roles do FSWs undertake, and how can their role best be supported?
What kind of outcomes for children, families and communities can be expected from the work of a FSW?
What does the provision of family support tell us about the role of schools as institutions in society?
Carpenter, H., Peters, M., Oseman, D., Papps, I., Dyson, A., Jones, L., Cummings, C., Laing, K. and Todd, L. (2010) Extended Services Evaluation: End of first year report (London: DfE). Carpenter, H., Cummings, C., Dyson, A., Jones, L., Kassam, N., Laing, K., Muijs, D., Papps, I., Peters, M., and Todd, L. (2011) Extended services in practice - A summary of evaluation evidence for head teachers, DFE-RR155 (London: Department for Education). Gray, B. (2009)’Befriending excluded families in Tower Hamlets: The emotional labour of Family Support Workers in cases of child protection and family support’, British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 39, pp.990. Hanafin, J. and Lynch, A. (2002) 'Peripheral voices: Parental involvement, social class, and educational disadvantage', British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 23, No. 11, pp.35. Lindsay, G., Davis, H., Strand, S., Cullen M.A., Band, S., Cullen, S., Davis, L., Hasluck, C., Evans, R. and Stewart-Brown, S. (2009) Parent Advisor Pilot Evaluation: Final Report. Research Report DCSF-RR151 (London: DCSF). Patrikakou, E.N. andWeissberg, R.P. (2000) 'Parents' perceptions of teacher outreach and parent involvement in children's education', Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, Vol. 20, No.1. Shuang Ji, C and Koblinsky. S.A. (2009) ‘Parent involvement in children's education : An exploratory study of urban, Chinese immigrant families’, Urban Education, Vol. 44, pp. 687.
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